Empty Nest? Perhaps It's Time For Downsizing

"My husband and I are about to reach a big milestone together. Our youngest child will soon graduate and we'll be "empty nesters". Once our son goes off to college, it will be just the two of us, alone in a home that's more than three times the size of the first house we bought nearly twenty-five years ago. Although we have moved few times over the years, always in need of a bigger place to fit our growing family. Now we are considering moving again... for the first time not to grow, but to downsize. So where do we start?"


The benefits of downsizing for empty nesters are obvious. A smaller home usually means a smaller or shorter mortgage, less taxes, and cheaper utilities. Smaller homes are also cheaper and easier to clean and maintain. Then with the money you save you can start working on that "bucket list." If this is you, if you're in the same wonderful boat we're in, the time to act is now. Waiting too long to downsize is a common financial mistake empty nesters maker. Many of them could have downsized years earlier but waited because of sentimental or nostalgia reasons, or simply not wanting to change.

From a financial standpoint, owning a big, expensive home is generally not the best investment. The average home grows in value by only 3-4% per year at best and you can typically earn a better rate of return through balanced investments in stocks, bonds, and securities, so it just makes sense to get out of that big home sooner rather than later.

Still, before you decide to downsize you should plan carefully and weigh costs and benefits. Decisions you make on where to move to save money could end up costing you more than you thought. For instance, you may save money in gas by moving closer to your work, but that area might have higher car insurance rates. You might also think moving to a small condo will be cheap, but be prepared to pay large dues and fees that come with condo living. These trade-offs can be complicated so it's important to do your homework and talk to a seasoned real estate professional about your concerns.

The hardest thing about downsizing is usually getting rid of all the "stuff" you have accumulated over the years.

Whether you are anticipating the empty nest or are in the empty nest, there are questions that come up for you. In order to fill the void many people start to ask themselves "What do I do with this big house, and all this stuff?"


Downsizing Step-by-Step

For empty nesters, downsizing from that 3,500 sq. ft. two-story home in the suburbs is often an appealing idea. A large home usually means large heating and cooling bills, a large yard to mow and weed, lots of bathrooms to clean and sizeable property taxes. Often the proceeds from the sale of your family home will enable you to buy a smaller home with money left over, but even if you don't end up with a sizeable profit, you should save a lot in reduced energy and maintenance costs.

The hardest thing about downsizing is usually getting rid of all the "stuff" you have accumulated over the years. You know it won't fit in a smaller place and you may want to buy new furniture anyway to suit the style of your new home. Begin as early as possible, at least six months before you plan to put the house on the market. One or two years ahead is even better!

Here is a step-by-step list to help you downsize your belongings:

  1. Consider the likely size and style of your new, smaller home. If necessary, measure your furniture and determine what will fit. Also determine what will fit in style-wise.
  2. Develop a list of resources. This list might include charities, tag sale companies, auctioneers, consignment stores, trash haulers, movers, storage facilities, even professional organizers. Contact them and choose the ones you want to use. Be sure to get references and read the contracts carefully.
  3. Compare the cost of moving or shipping your furniture, appliances, mattresses, etc. with the cost of replacing them at your new location.
  4. Make two lists: one list of the pieces you want to keep and one list of those you plan to get rid of.
  5. Contact family members and/or friends to see if they want any of the items you do not want to take with you and, if so, how and when they want to come and pick the items up.
  6. Decide how you want to dispose of the remaining items, i.e. store, sell, donate, or throw away.
  7. Develop a step-by-step plan. This could be room by room or type of item (e.g. furniture, clothing, memorabilia, etc.).
  8. Follow your plan systematically. Include your spouse or partner, if possible, so one of you can keep the other on track. (It's easy to get distracted with old photos and memorabilia.)
  9. Have the items hauled away, sold, donated, etc. Downsizing veterans all say the same thing: "when in doubt, toss it out!" The less you have to move, the easier your move will be!


If you are an empty nester, or soon to be, contact the Platinum Results Team. One of our real estate specialists can assist you through the planning and execution of the downsizing process. From finding you the perfect "right sized" home for you, whether it be a one-story home on a quiet street, a patio home, adult living community, or a maintenance free town home, and helping you to sell your "family" home is our specialty. The Platinum Results Team will assist your purchase or your next home and the sale of your existing home.